Something From Nothing


Something From NothingI live in Silicon Valley, where tech entrepreneurs rule. It’s a world where being smart and working hard are a given, and being creative and resourceful are regularly rewarded. And being able to make something from nothing sets you apart.

Although I’ve spent the last two decades working with tech start-ups as an employee, consultant, vendor and adviser, I started from humble beginnings. Born in Hong Kong, the second of four children, our family of 6 immigrated to San Francisco to stay with my aunt with $20 in our pockets and no job. Although I was only 5 at the time, I started learning about the value of friends and family, the rewards of hard work, the promise education provides, and that the opportunities are available for the hard-working, passionate and creative.

Today, I feel my parents beaming down on the four of us kids from above, proud that we are the educated, independent and good people that are we. In working with a wide range of tech leaders and companies over the past two decades, I’ve also learned a thing or two about creating Something From Nothing.

  1. The opportunities are there for those who can see ‘something’, when so many others don’t.
  2. That ‘something’ must be about what-the-customers-want, not about how sexy the technology is.
  3. Because we are emerging from an Age of Information to an Age of Personalization, technology will be a key part of creating individualized ‘somethings’ for the customer.
  4. Creating ‘something’ takes skill, persistence, creativity, flexibility, and so much more.
  5. Leaders at all levels must ever focus on building momentum, creating positive energy. Standing still, no matter how profitable, is choosing complacency, and others who are more mobile and flexible will achieve that edge.
  6. Choose people to work with who are ethical, talented, and hardworking – in that order.
  7. Choose customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders carefully. Communicate transparently, clearly and regularly to continue to build a win-win, long-term relationship with all.
  8. Your internal team must be working together to meet common goals. Dissenters, no matter how talented, are not worth the investment of time and money.
  9. No matter where you sit within the organization, know when and where you fit best, and know when you should move yourself from one place to another as the company grows. Know also how others fit within the organization and how that is impacting the organization. And if you see a misalignment, do something about it.
  10. Knowing what-you-do-for-whom may change with the times. Knowing what-technologies-work-today may not be the answer tomorrow. Knowing who’s the right customer/partner/investor/staff member/etc. today may not work for tomorrow. Being fluid and managing each of the situations above, and whatever else may arise, while maintaining relationships with all, will separate the winners from the wanna-bes.

Those are my thoughts based on my experience coaching executives and advising start-ups. What are yours?

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